MOF speaks up on “unlimited changes”, reiterates procurement principles

Government bodies have taken the issue of bad briefs seriously after images of one brief by a local school emerged asking for “Unlimited Changes” on its creative design.

Since then, the Ministry of Finance has put out a statement saying it has looked into the matter and agreed that it is unfair to expect the suppliers to agree to unlimited changes.

“MOF will issue a circular to remind all government agencies of standing procurement principles, which includes ensuring that all procurement specifications are reasonable and fair,” read the statement.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education also agreed that the number of iterations should be reasonable and cannot be unlimited. Since then this specification has been removed from the school’s Invitation-to-Quote (ITQ).

The DesignSingapore Council is also now working with MOF to advise government agencies on the guideline of best practices for government procurement of design services.

NTUC's online creative community, the U Creative too has expressed its opinion on the issue. On its Facebook page, the organisation said it would like to call upon buyers of creative services to educate themselves on writing better briefs.

NTUC U Creative said it would like to take the first step by organising a learning session on the topic.

“We believe most such cases arise from a lack of understanding and proper training on what constitutes a fair creative services procurement brief. An effective and fair brief should be mindful of both the client expectations and the creative effort to meet such expectations. As part of the creative and media community, U Creative acknowledges that this is a gap that needs to be addressed,” said the post.

Vivek Kumar, director, U Creative & U Future Leaders, NTUC also told Marketing that today many creative professionals face challenges of vague requirements and terms and this is "an ill-informed practice" that seems to be pervasive in both public and private sectors.

NTUC also encouraged the creative community to recommend clients and other industry partners to attend this and other such sessions.

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The recent case of ‘UNLIMITED CHANGES’ has indeed brought out good discussion. Many creative professionals face these...

Posted by U Creative on Wednesday, February 17, 2016


The much discussed brief first emerged on the Facebook page of Kelley Cheng, the founder of a design consultancy The Press Room. Since then it has been covered extensively by local media and has seen a heated reaction from the creative community with many deeming it unethical.

Founder of pitch consultancy R3, Goh Shufen said the reality of the situation is that most clients have been getting away with free iterations - government included. This is because the service level agreement signed by agencies do not stipulate parameters to that level, and agencies do not push hard enough to set boundaries.

Speaking from both R3 perspective as well as IAS which she is president of, Goh added, building in unlimited iterations is “really a cop out”. It almost always destroys creativity and passion for the work, and produces unnoticed mediocre campaigns.

As a tax payer, I'd like to know how this government agency accounts for its marketing effectiveness and get its agency aligned to their goals.

Several in the ad industry have also questioned the 4A’s stance in the matter.

Bernard Chan, CEO of 4As, told Marketing that 4As mission remains to preserve the value of creativity. However, good creative has its fair share of technical requirements – one of which is putting out a good brie.

The pressure should be on clients to create good briefs because it is a competitive market. Without a good brief, you will not get good work making you lose out to your competitors.

(Read also: How to give a monster brief)

He added clients need to fast realise the value of the creative process.

Chan added that 4A’s through its shows The crow bar awards, Singapore Media Awards and NexGen, it tries to promote good brief and pitch ethics.

“When it comes to such briefs, the best thing would be to forget pitching for it. If you participate, you are encouraging such behavior,” he added.

(Photo courtesy: Shutterstock)

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